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The Coffee Spot Guide to Liverpool

Liverpool's Royal Liver Building as seen from the Mersey Ferry. Built in 1911, it was the tallest building in the UK until 1961.In speciality coffee terms, Liverpool  has long been in the shadow of its neighbour and regional rival, Manchester, not that many Liverpudlians would admit that. However, in the last year or so, it’s been catching up quickly, with a spate of new openings (coffee shops and roasters) that shows no signs of slowing down.

I grew up not far from Liverpool (as the crow flies, at least). From the window of my parents’ house you could see, through a dip in the Wirral, the Liverpool skyline, the two Cathedrals standing out. The Liverpool of today is a far cry of the Liverpool of my childhood, a city reborn and reconnected to its waterfront. Many of the city’s attractions are within walking distance of Lime Street Station, including several world-class museums and, of course, the Beatles Experience.

However, it pays to get off the beaten track a little and explore, with areas like the Baltic Triangle springing up to rival the more established Bold Street/Duke Street scene. You can also find good coffee outside of the city centre if you know where to look.

As with all these guides, this is not, and does not claim to be, a comprehensive guide to Liverpool’s coffee scene, particularly not with the number of new places which are opening at the moment.

Header image: looking at the Liverpool skyline from the Mersey Ferry, with the Royal Liver Building on the left and the Radio City tower on the right. In the centre is the Port of Liverpool Building

Coffee Spots

92 Degrees Coffee

The 92 Degrees logo, taken from above the counter on the Hardman Road coffee shop.92 Degrees Coffee is one of several places to spring up in Liverpool in the last year or two. Whereas most coffee shops are started by people within the industry, 92 Degrees is the brainchild of five friends from the software business, united by a love of coffee/coffee shops. What’s more, while most start small and grow with small steps, 92 Degrees went all in, roasting its own beans onsite from the outset (the roaster, by the way, is Rob Leigh, author of From Lime Street to Yirgacheffe). You’ll be able to read more about the roasting side of things and the motivation behind 92 Degrees in the Meet the Roaster series.

92 Degrees occupies a large, bright, high-ceilinged space, the sort of coffee shop that you could easily lose yourself in for an afternoon. Meanwhile, the roaster turns out some very good single-origin coffee. There are two single-origins and a decaf on espresso, and a further five roasted for filter, all through the V60. All the beans are available for you to take home, along with a selection of coffee kit. If you’re hungry, there’s a good range of cake, toasted bagels and a small selection of sandwiches.

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92 Degrees Roastery

The 92 Degrees logo, taken from above the counter on the Hardman Road coffee shop.Liverpool’s 92 Degrees isn’t just an ordinary (speciality) coffee shop. Instead it also happens to be a roaster as well, and what’s more, it’s one that roasts on-site, akin to Manchester’s Ancoats Coffee Co. or Birmingham’s Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters. However, the uniqueness doesn’t stop there. Most roasters are usually set up by people with a strong background in coffee, whereas 92 Degrees is the brainchild of five friends from the software business, united by a love of coffee/coffee shops. What’s more, while most start small and grow with small steps, 92 Degrees went all in, roasting its own beans onsite from the outset.

92 Degrees, the coffee shop, has its own entry on the Coffee Spot. Today’s post, part of the occasional Meet the Roaster series, focuses on the roasting side of the business. As well as supplying the coffee shop, 92 Degrees has a growing retail customer-base, plus you can buy the beans, either in the store or on-line. 92 Degrees roasts a mix of blends for espresso and single-origin coffees for both espresso and filter. 92 Degrees has also been a champion of good decaf from the outset, always having a single-origin decaf on espresso.

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Bold Street Coffee

The exterior of Bold Street Coffee, proudly proclaiming itself, on Bold Street, LiverpoolGiven the somewhat trying day I’d had, there was something reassuring about stepping into Liverpool’s Bold Street Coffee. It’s not what I’d call relaxing (think loud and busy) or even particularly comfortable (think plastic chairs over sofas), but it was indisputably my kind of place. One end of the counter was buckling under the weight of the interesting cakes, the other held an Aeropress brew bar, while in the middle, the bright red La Marzocco made a certain statement…

There’s also something about the way that the staff carry themselves which makes a statement: we know coffee, we’re passionate about coffee. I could write an essay on what it is that distinguishes (at a glance) those staff who have this passion and knowledge from those who are merely competent but indifferent and still not capture it. However, whatever it is, the two guys in Bold Street had it.

If tea is more your thing, then you’re in luck, since Bold Street carries a range of Waterloo Teas. If you’re looking for something more substantial than cake, then your luck’s also in, since Bold Street has decent breakfast (until 12:00, 16:00 at weekends) and lunch (12:00 until 16:00) menus too.

May 2018: Some bad news and some good news. Bold Street Coffee was forced to leave its eponymous home in January, although there's currently a pop-up at Santa Maluco on Castle Street. The good news, however, is that Bold Street Coffee has a chanced to get back to where it belongs, in its original home at 89 Bold Street, but this time in an expanded space! To do this, Bold Street Coffee needs to raise £30,000 through its Kickstarter campaign, which runs until 27th June. There are some awesome rewards, so get pledging now!

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Coffee & Fandisha

A miniature Jebena, the traditional Ethiopian coffee pot, on a table at Liverpool's Coffee & FandishaI must confess, the tag line “where coffee meets popcorn” didn’t initially inspire me. Really? Coffee and popcorn? However, Coffee & Fandisha came highly recommended, and, since I’d made the journey to Liverpool’s Baltic triangle (admittedly only a 15-minute walk from the centre), I thought I’d better go in...

So, what is Coffee & Fandisha? The clue’s in the name, “Fandisha” being Ethiopian for popcorn. It transpires that popcorn’s a traditional element in the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, consumed while waiting for the coffee to stop you getting hungry. Hence, Coffee & Fandisha, “where coffee meets popcorn”.

Coffee & Fandisha’s an interesting mix of Ethiopian tradition, modern third-wave coffee and old-fashioned Liverpudlian hospitality. Occupying a single-storey, open-plan brick building, Coffee & Fandisha’s a cosy, welcoming place. There’s a bespoke blend of Ethiopian coffee on espresso, roasted by London’s Ethiopian Coffee Company and served, naturally enough, with complimentary popcorn.

If you don’t fancy espresso, there’s a single-origin filter (V60/Chemex), the roaster rotating between Neighbourhood Coffee, Casa Espresso or Nude Espresso. There’s also loose-leaf tea, Kokoa Collection hot chocolate, wines and spirits, while if you’re hungry, you can choose from the breakfast, brunch and lunch menus, or feast on the decent cake selection.

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COFFI, on Pilgrim Street in Liverpool, occupying an old, two-storey brick-built coach house.COFFI is another recent addition to Liverpool’s speciality coffee scene which came highly recommended. Located on a cobbled street running parallel to Hope Street, there’s a lovely view of Liverpool’s Church of England Cathedral (not to be confused with Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is at the other end of Hope Street). COFFI opened in the late spring of 2021 in a lovely old coach house, which provides a unique setting for the coffee shop. There’s limited seating inside at a long table, while there are four benches outside on the quiet street.

The real draw, however, is the coffee, with owners Nat + Mike, who cut their coffee teeth in Bucharest, selecting some outstanding beans from Europe’s best roasters, brewing from a concise espresso-based menu with batch-brew filter and pour-over options. Berlin’s Five Elephant and London’s Assembly were on the shelves when I visited, but these change every two to three weeks, so you’re going to need to hurry to catch them. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes available.

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Mother Espresso

My 6oz with milk at Mother Espresso in Liverpool.Coffee shop chains are strange things. Sometimes places expand quickly, adding shop after shop, building a strong brand name. Other times, a second branch is only added after long, careful consideration. And sometimes, that second branch is so far removed in look and feel from the original that, until the barista tells you about the connection, you are completely clueless.

So it is with Mother Espresso, the Liverpool outpost of Manchester’s finest, North Tea Power, which opened a mere eight years after its parent and is about as different as can be in terms of look and feel. In my defence, as soon as the barista told me, I remembered, having read about the opening at the end of 2017 on social media, but by the time I came to visit, I’d completely forgotten about the connection, the name “Mother Espresso” not exactly screaming “North Tea Power” at me.

Like its parent, Mother Espresso does many things, excelling at them all, from coffee through tea, craft beer, wine and cocktails to an impressive food menu. The coffee is from Has Bean, with a pair of single-origins on espresso (for milk and black drinks respectively), while there’s also pour-over and batch-brew.

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Neighbourhood Coffee

The label from Neighbourhood Coffee's Ethiopia Sidamo Deri Kocha single-origin coffee, with the catchy name "I Still Haven't Ground What I'm Looking For".I first came across Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee, the subject of today’s Meet the Roaster feature, at last year’s Cup North. While Neighbourhood only started roasting in 2015, its founders, Ed and Chris, have plenty of coffee experience between them, having previously worked for green-bean importers and African coffee specialists, Schluter. Spotting a gap in the Liverpool market, they set out to establish Liverpool’s first speciality coffee roastery.

Working from a very modern set-up in a railway arch just north of the city centre, Neighbourhood roasts on a 15kg Giesen, a Dutch roaster which I see popping up more and more frequently in UK roasteries. Neighbourhood roasts a couple of espresso blends and has four to six single-origins. You can now enjoy Neighbourhood’s coffee in select cafes in the Liverpool area, and, increasingly around the country, plus via the on-line shop.

Like many small and start-up roasters, roasting is a small part of what Neighbourhood does. A large part of the business is building a market for speciality coffee, as well as providing training and support for existing and new customers. As much space in the arch is given over to the large training suite as it is to the roaster.

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Press Bros. Coffee, Lark Lane

An espresso served in a classic black cup with the words "Press Bros. Coffee" on the front.Press Bros. Coffee was recommended by my old friends at Neighbourhood Coffee when I visited Liverpool two weeks ago. Founded by three brothers who, in 2018, bought a converted Piaggio coffee van, Press Bros. began life in the Baltic Market (where the Piaggio is still going strong). Three years later, in October 2021, Press Bros. opened its first bricks and mortar store on Lark Lane in Aigburgh, south of the city centre and a stone’s throw from Sefton Park.

Press Bros. has come a long way from the Piaggio van, with Lark Lane, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, offering a lot more than coffee. There’s an all-day brunch menu, sandwiches and cakes, along with tea and a range of draught and canned beer, plus wine and cocktails. When it comes to coffee, Neighbourhood provides a bespoke house blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest espresso, which changes every month. There are also a couple of filter options, which are matched to a specific preparation method. For June, this was Neighbourhood’s Born Sipping, a naturally-processed coffee from smallholders in the Konga region of Ethiopia (AeroPress) and the Las Guerreras, a Mexican single-origin from Girls Who Grind (V60).

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Root Coffee

The words "Root Coffee" written in an arch in black capitals on white, tiled wall. "EST / 20 / 15" is written in red in a box below.On December 19th, 2015, Liverpool got an early Christmas present in the shape of Root Coffee. In speciality coffee shop terms, Root is huge, with a generous outdoor seating area, and a spacious, uncluttered interior. The fun doesn’t stop there, with much of the furniture made by the owner, Dennis, using recycled pallets (for the bench seating and coffee tables) and naturally-weathered, reclaimed wood from the docks (wall cladding, counter and table-tops).

The coffee, however, is anything but recycled, and this includes the equipment, which features a state-of-the-art three-group Black Eagle espresso machine and a Mythos 1 grinder, while there’s an EK43 for filter and decaf. The coffee itself comes from a rotating cast of roasters, Dennis’ aim being to champion some of the less well-known roasters, raising their brand awareness in Liverpool.

While I was there, Root had gone all West Country, with Bristol’s Extract Coffee Roasters on espresso and Bath’s Round Hill Roastery on filter, with local roasters, Neighbourhood Coffee, providing the decaf. There’s a wide selection of loose-leaf teas, and, in a further West Country link, the cakes are from Bristol’s Cakesmiths. There’s also a toast-based menu (now upgraded to a full brunch menu) for those who want something a little more savoury.

July 2020: Root Coffee has reopened following the enforced closure due to COVID-19. The kitchen has also been upgraded since my initial visit. You can see what I made of it when I visited in early September.

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Ropes & Twines

A Colombian single-origin espresso extracting on a Mavam espresso system at Ropes & Twines in Liverpool.Liverpool’s Bold Street is no stranger to great coffee, with the eponymous Bold Street Coffee leading the way for many years. More recently, it’s been joined by a host of others, including, on nearby Wood Street, Mother Espresso, and now, on Bold Street itself, Ropes & Twines, which describes itself as a “Coffee and Wine Room”. Perhaps taking the lead from the likes of Filter + Fox, Ropes & Twines offers coffee and wine in a high-class setting, including a rather awesome set of cellar rooms, along with sandwiches, cakes and charcuterie (the only other coffee shop I can think of offering coffee, wine and charcuterie is London’s Fernandez & Wells).

When it comes to the coffee, there are two single-origins, one on espresso, one on pour-over, both roasted for Ropes & Twines by Maude Coffee in Leeds. In keeping with the elegance of the setting, Ropes & Twines has dispensed with the usual bulk of the espresso machine, instead going with what I believe is the UK’s first Mavam espresso system outside of London. This modular system hides the boilers and pumps out of the way, just leaving the group heads and steam wands rising above the counter.

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The Cow & Co Cafe

The Cow & Co Cafe logo taken from the front of the menu.The Cow & Co Cafe started life in Liverpool as a design store in 2009. Over time, an espresso machine found its way into the store and, before long, customers were coming in as much for the coffee as for the various gifts and products on the shelves. Slowly, the design shop morphed into what you see today, the Cow & Co Cafe, a speciality coffee shop, with Cornwall’s Origin Coffee Roasters on espresso and, for somewhere so small, an impressive food and cake selection.

It still retains its roots as a design store though, with a large set of retail shelves, while there’s also a rack of art, design and lifestyle magazines. Think of a smaller version of Manchester’s Fig + Sparrow crossed with London’s Kioskafé. The coffee offering and magazines are more on a par with Kioskafé, while the food and design elements are more in keeping with Fig + Sparrow.

Although it’s only small, Cow & Co packs a lot in, including a lovely mezzanine level, which more than doubles the seating capacity. There’s also a couple of tables outside on the pavement, the dead-end Cleveland Square being a pleasant-enough environment if you want to sit outside.

February 2019: Cow & Co is now called Thoughtfully Cafe, but as far as I can tell, nothing else has changed.

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